Men's Basketball Team Travels to Marshall Saturday Night

Jan. 26, 2007

After winning three of its last four games, the University of Houston men's basketball team looks to even its season record to 9-9 when the Cougars travel to Huntington, W.Va., and play Marshall University in a Conference USA game at 6:00 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 27. UH enters the game with 3-2 C-USA mark after defeating UCF, 73-70 in overtime, last Wednesday night in Houston. The Thundering Herd has a 7-12 overall record after suffering a 77-63 loss against intrastate rival West Virginia. Marshall is 2-3 in C-USA games this season after winning its last two conference games against Tulane and Tulsa.

Last Wednesday night, Robert McKiver poured in a career-best 36 points as the University of Houston men's basketball team charged back from a 20-point halftime deficit to claim a 73-70 overtime win.

McKiver drained six triples to fuel the comeback, shooting 11-of-19 from the floor in addition to hitting eight-of-his-nine free throws. He also passed out four assists against one turnover in 43 minutes of action.

Dion Dowell added 12 points for the victors, while Oliver Lafayette and Marcus Malone chipped in with nine points apiece. Each of Malone's triples came at critical times during the comeback.

The Cougars fell behind 35-15 in the opening half, but Houston fought back to out-score the Golden Knights 49-29 in the second stanza to force overtime.

Houston started its charge after being down 47-25 with 12:24 to go but used a 15-5 spurt to trim the deficit down to 52-40 on a Lafayette three-point basket with 8:25 on the clock.

The Cougars turned up the defensive pressure and got within six points at 60-54 after McKiver forced a turnover in the backcourt and converted on a three-point play at the 4:02 mark.

Houston continued to climb the mountain as Malone provided a triple from the left baseline to bring the Cougars back to within one possession at 62-59 with 2:41 left to play.

A pair of Lavell Payne free throws gave UCF a 64-59 edge with 1:32 remaining, but Houston was not to be denied, using a pair of McKiver free throws to go along with another Malone triple with 43 seconds left to force overtime at 64-64.

Malone gave Houston the lead for good at 71-68 with another trey from the left baseline with 43 seconds to go, while Lafayette hit a pair of clutch free throws with six seconds on the clock to secure the 73-70 win. Payne paced three UCF players, notching a career-high 26 points, including a 13-for-17 effort from the charity stripe. Jermaine Taylor and Dave Noel added 12 and 11 for the visitors.

UCF opened the game with a 16-8 lead at the 7:16 mark of the opening half and scored 19 of the final 26 points of the half to build a 35-15 intermission advantage. Payne and Noel combined for 23 of the 35 Golden Knight first half points.

Houston's 22-point comeback marks the first time since Nov. 29, 1997, that the Cougars have overcome a 20-point deficit to win a game. Houston trailed at Tulsa, 49-29, with 15:28 left to play before using a 32-8 run to take a 55-54 lead when Shamahn McBride hit a jump shot with 1:34 left to play. Houston never trailed again and went on to win 61-57.

Last Wednesday night, Houston trailed UCF, 35-15, at halftime before out-scoring UCF, 49-29 in the second half. Robert McKiver scored 25 points in the second half to help force the game into overtime. Marcus Malone tied the game at 64-64 with 43 seconds remaining in regulation. The Golden Knights missed a three-point at buzzer to force the game into overtime.

After playing just three home games in the past 55 days, Houston plays its final road game during the month of January when the Cougars travel to Marshall. UH will be playing its fourth road game during January after playing five of its six games during the month of December away from Hofheinz Pavilion. The Cougars have a 2-5 record in road games this season after defeating Tulsa, 69-67, on Jan. 20. Houston dropped its first two road games in January at Kentucky and Rice.

Houston enters the Marshall game with two of the top six scoring leaders and two of the top 20 rebounding leaders in Conference USA this season. Junior guard Robert McKiver ranks second among the league's scoring leaders with 20.1 points per game after scoring 94 points in Houston's first four C-USA contests. Senior guard Oliver Lafayette is averaging 15.1 points per contest and ranks sixth among C-USA scoring leaders a combined 22 points against Tulsa and UCF.

Lafayette is ranked 14th among C-USA rebounding leaders and senior forward Jahmar Thorpe is 17th. Both players are averaging 5.5 rebounds per game, but Lafayette has 94 rebounds this season and Thorpe has one less.. He also is chipping in with 9.5 points per game following his combined 31 points in the last three games.

Junior forward Dion Dowell is averaging 14.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in 10 games this season, but has not played in enough games to be ranked by Conference USA.

Lafayette led the league in steals with 2.1 per game and McKiver is seventh in that category with 1.7. In the assists column, McKiver ranks 11th with a 3.65 average.

Houston and Marshall meet for the third time after Houston won the first two games in the series. The Cougars won, 69-56, in Houston last season after opening the series with a 102-93 victory in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1, 1968..

Marshal enters Saturday night's game having won two of its last three games with wins over Tulsa and Tulane. Sophomore forward Markel Humphrey leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Humphrey has improved his play in C-USA play to a 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in the first five conference games. Junior guard Mark Dorris also averages 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds. Travis Aikens chips in with 11.5 points per game.

Following Saturday night's game at Marshall, Houston returns home to Hofheinz Pavilion to play a non-conference game against Saint Louis Monday night, Jan. 29 at 7:00 p.m.

UH Alumni can get discounted tickets to Monday night's game against the Billikens ($10 for reserve tickets and $6 for general admission) by purchasing the tickets in advance Monday. To purchase the tickets, call (713) GO-COOGS or stop by the UH Ticket Office.

The Cougars return to Conference USA play on Wednesday night, Jan. 31, at 7:00 p.m., when Houston plays host to innercity rival, Rice University.



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